One of the most common misconceptions of airline travel for people with disabilities is in the legal department. There are many laws in place that protect travelers with disabilities, some of which have been in place for a decade or even two, that many travelers still don't know about. In addition, there are frequent updates to these laws, acts, and regulations. While it is not necessarily your responsibility as a traveler to know and protect these rights, that is perhaps the most important responsibility of our government, yet it is in your extreme best interest to stay on top of them and be proactive about them.
In addition to what is listed briefly below, travelers can use the US Access Board to stay on top of this topic. http://www.access-board.gov/gs.htm
Highlights of the existing rights:
ADA- Americans with Disabilities Act; 1990
Title I: employment rights
Title II: public services
Title III: public accomodations
Title IV: telecommunication services
Title V: misc provisions
Where the ADA steps in for travel is in the airports
ACAA- Air Carrier Access Act; 1986
Prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in air travel and requires air carriers to accommodate the needs of passengers with disabilities
Carriers may not refuse transportation on the basis of disability.
Airlines may not require advance notice for a person with a disability, with some minor exceptions (such as the 48 hr advance notice requirement for emotional support animals).
Airlines are required to provide assistance with boarding, deplaning, and making connections.
Carriers must designate Complaint Resolution Officials (CROs) to respond to complaints from passengers.
Carriers must obtain an assurance of compliance from contractors who provide services to passengers.
Rehabilitation Act Amendment; 1998
The law strengthens section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act and requires access to electronic and information technology provided by the Federal government. The law applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use electronic and information technology. Federal agencies must ensure that this technology is accessible to employees and members of the public with disabilities to the extent it does not pose an "undue burden."
More acronyms and links:
ADAAG- ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities
FAA- Federal Aviation Administration; guidelines are slowly becoming standards
DOJ- Department of Justice
DOT- Department of Transportation
ADCP- Airport Disability Compliance Program; auditing and educating operators on standards